Many of you will have heard of the Benyon Review on Highly Protected Marine Areas. Whilst I support the general principles of these reserves I do not believe that recreational angling should be included in proposed restricted activities. Now is the time to have your say for if you cannot be bothered you may find angling banned in large areas that have always been fished. The loss of sea angling along the North Devon coast would be a tragedy for many depriving many of a much loved hobby and putting many local businesses out of existence.
My Letter below:-
Dear Selaine Saxby,
I am writing to you to express grave concerns regarding the recently published Benyon Review on Highly Protected Marine Areas. I have been a keen and dedicated sea angler for close to fifty years and it has always been a big part of my life. I was born in Combe Martin and have fished the local coastline since being introduced to the pastime by my late father. I have been a member of the Combe Martin Sea Angling Club since the age of thirteen and have served as both Secretary and Chairman of the club for over forty years. In addition I am a regular contributor to angling magazines, an author and write the weekly column in the North Devon Journal. I also run a popular local website North Devon Angling News.
Sea angling is a popular pastime in North Devon and supports numerous businesses including Tackle Shops, Charter Boats, Holiday accommodation and many other local businesses. The Benyon report itself estimates a national spend of £847 million.
I personally have always believed in the value of Marine Conservation Zones and fully understand the principles behind them. I have witnessed a dramatic decline in many species of fish during my long recreational angling life. I like most anglers now practice catch and release for most species taking only the occasional fish for the table. I do not believe anglers have a significant impact on fish stocks and should not be included in the same category as commercial fishing that has undoubtedly decimated fish stocks and caused severe damage to marine life with destructive fishing methods.
I suggest that angling bodies should be consulted regarding these proposals with the Angling Trust engaging with the relevant bodies to seek a way forward with anglers working with conservation interests to promote improved fish stocks.
The template for such cooperation can be seen across the world where angling works with conservation bodies to protect fish stocks supporting a high value recreational resource that in turn supports many local businesses.
I urge you to consider the value of sea angling in North Devon and the importance in providing a healthy pastime that is good for both mental and physical health. I’m writing to ask if you would write to the Rt Hon George Eustice, Secretary of State at DEFRA, and ask him to reject the proposals to bring in an automatic ban on sea angling in all of the new HPMAs and to support the recommendations of the Angling Trust’s response to the Benyon review.
Visit the Angling Trusts website for guidance on how to respond. I have sent a letter to our local MP and suggest you do the same its only takes fifteen minutes. Take time to write and save our wonderful pastime.
Life seems to have paused in this strange era of lockdown and this gives time to reflect and assess where we are on life’s journey. Much of my life has revolved around angling and pursuing various goals. I like to think that I have reached a point where I have realised that it is not the catching that really matters but the memories that are made during the chase.
It is perhaps a disadvantage to be afflicted by a wide fascination with all types of angling. I have tended to flit from one fish to another never really devoting all my energies into one species for any length of time. I have dabbled with competitive angling with some success but it’s not really my thing. For a while I thought I was a bit of a specimen hunter but in truth I just love fishing. Big fish set the heart racing and need to be there lurking in the shadows but they don’t necessarily need to be caught.
Beside me I have a vast library of angling books many dating back into bygone eras many decades before my birth. Delving into the pages of these tomes it is clear that the principles or joys of angling have changed little. An angler at the water’s edge shares those same feelings and emotions. The glimpse of a good fish, the thrill of the take and the devastation of loss when a big fish breaks free or sheds the hook.
I am fortunate to have written two books myself ensuring that my own fishing journey is to a degree recorded for years to come. I have been reading a book on eel fishing by Barry McConnell; The Eel Angler tells of one angler’s obsession with catching big eels. I can relate to the journey the passion and the excitement within the pages. The jaunts, humour and adventure enjoyed during the quest for an outsize eel.
I have never caught a big eel, my biggest weighed a little over 2lb though I have seen eels that have been trapped on the outlet pipes of local reservoirs one of which I estimated at close to ten pounds. A big eel is perhaps a new goal to chase but have I the time to chase yet another mystery?
Non anglers would struggle to understand the motivation to fish the desire to deceive and cradle a creature from a different world in a dimension we can only glimpse into. My favourite book was written by Chris Yates and is entitled ‘Casting At The Sun’. It records the adventures of Chris and his young friends as they seek carp in enchanting lakes hidden at the end of winding country lanes in wooded vales. The book somehow captures the freedom of youth, summer days and nights beside water.
Our son James once commented that he relished those days fishing when you wake in the morning and have nothing more important than the days fishing ahead. Those days are very special for sure and I am often thankful that I have thoughts of fishing to occupy my mind.
When this lockdown is over it will be difficult to know where to cast first. I guess much will depend upon when it is and what the conditions are. If we have had heavy rain salmon and sea trout will be waiting. If it’s hot and dry then perhaps it will a carp or that eel. If there is moderate breeze and the tide is right then I could well take the plugging rod and wander a rocky shoreline. Maybe drift a team of buzzers at Wimbleball. Or maybe……….
These are strange times with our freedoms understandably curtailed. I am very fortunate to live out in the country with a garden and access to open countryside to undertake our daily Boris walk. Nature is all around and is a great source of comfort during these dark days.
For several weeks the wind has been blowing from the North East a cold and uninspiring direction from an angling point of view. The wind has now swung to the South bringing a warmer balmy air that stirs the angler within.
It is difficult as an all round angler to decide what type of fishing I am missing the most. The Fly Fisherman within dreams of drifting a team of buzzers and the moment the line zips tight as a rainbow intercepts. The singing reel and the leaping trout.
Or waiting beside a calm lake absorbing nature as I await the piercing thrill of a bite alarm as a carp bolts after falling for my carefully laid trap.
Wading the river searching for the elusive spring salmon? Flicking dry fly and nymph into a riffle in search of a crimson spotted wild brown trout? Launching a sandeel from the beach in search of spring ray or working a plug for a silver bass.
Frustrating times indeed. In the mean time I have been buying a few flies and have a mission to sort out the chaos of the tackle shed. I really wish I was more organised as I tend to grab fishing time and often return from the water dumping the kit with the intention of sorting in the cold light of day.
Do I really need all of this gear? An array of lures purchased over many years some of them hosting large barbaric trebles that seem a little excessive. It is perhaps time to declutter.
I am presently reading a book called STRONGHOLD by Tucker Malarkey. The book tells of one man’s quest to save the world’s Wild Salmon – before its too late. Whilst it relates mostly to Pacific salmon there is much to relate to within its pages. Most alarming is perhaps the reference to the demise of the Atlantic Salmon for its clear that what we now have left is a shadow of what we once had. Of this I am very aware following the research I undertook when writing my own book “I Caught A Glimpse”. Which is a good read for the lockdown!
The COVID-19 outbreak is undoubtedly a disaster on many levels but there is perhaps always an upside. Not sure if it’s just my perception but looking up into the night sky the stars seem brighter than ever. Is this a result of the lack of pollution from the many planes that normally leave vapour trails crisscrossing the sky?
The reduction in commercial fishing could give fish stocks a valuable reprieve. Following on from the World Wars fishing often showed a dramatic upturn as fish stocks had recovered. As I said in my previous feature perhaps this is a time to recalibrate.
Our daily walks into the countryside have allowed a time to observe. I have a collection of books by that acclaimed countryside author BB. His prose paints a vivid picture of nature with in depth observation. In some of his writing there lingers a melancholic atmosphere that somehow resounds with me today in these sombre times. Throughout BB’s prose there is a love for nature that gives strength. Most of his books have these simple words in their cover.
‘The Wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades: these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts.’
Angling is one of the few activities that has a very low risk from Coronavirus being an outdoor pursuit it gives participants the opportunity to get away from the stress of the current situation and enjoy the countryside and fresh air. Anglers can ensure their day is completely safe by purchasing permits prior to fishing. Stafford Moor and Anglers Paradise have both introduced contactless policy for obtaining permits. South West Lakes Trust have also got facilities to purchase permits online.
Anglers Paradise – No Contact Policy
Anglers Paradise is continuing to operate as normal at this time. We have an operational plan in place for our customers and staff due to the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
We are running a ‘No Contact Policy’. Below are the guidelines we are working to, please adhere to these guidelines. These actions have been taken to protect our customers, guests, staff and business.
Villas will be deep cleaned and sanitised before your arrival.
Villa bookings must check-in by phone the day before arrival between 09:00 and 17:00.
At check-in you must pay for your fishing by card. You will be asked for your vehicle registration number.
Specimen Lakes, Night Fishing and Day Ticket lakes must be booked over the phone and paid for in advance by card. (There will be no toilet or washing facilities available for day ticket anglers).
On your arrival your Villa will be unlocked and your key will be left inside. Your complimentary bottle of wine will be waiting for you.
Supermarket deliveries (and all other customer deliveries) must be met in the forest car park. (Sign posted).
Bar, Bistro will be closed but orders can still be delivered to the Villa. Details on how to use this service will be provided in the Villa.
The Laundrette will also be closed.
Tackle shop will also be closed however purchases can be phoned through and delivered to the Villa within 1 hour.
During this high risk time the swimming pool facilities will be CLOSED.
Please bring with you anti-bacterial soap/sanitiser and bleach based spray for handles and surfaces
As there has been panic purchasing of toilet tissue we can only supply a limited amount to each Villa so it may be advisable to bring extra.
If you or any of your party feels unwell as described by the government guidelines, it must be reported to reception by phone so we can set the necessary procedures in action.
Please only mingle between your own booking party and use common sense when socialising around villas and lakes.
Urgent villa maintenance will be carried out by our staff, please respect the guidelines regarding contact and cleanliness; ideally vacate the villa whilst our operatives are in attendance. Non-urgent maintenance will be attended to following your departure. To report villa maintenance please ring the office on 01409 221559 between the hours 9am & 5pm.
We reserve the right to change your accommodation with no notice given. If this occurs it will be in the best interest of our customers.
In the event of you not being able to fulfil your holiday directly due to the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, you should contact your insurer for greater clarification, we have recommended that everyone take out holiday insurance please refer to Clause 6 of the terms and conditions of booking.
Day ticket anglers must book in advance by phone and pay by card.
If the Government Response changes then we will react accordingly.
Stafford Moor – No Contact Policy
At Stafford Moor they are also implementing a no contact policy regarding the Coronavirus. We are not currently closed we are open as usual but have a couple of extra precautions in place.
We as you know are quiet hot with general hygiene here in the toilets /showers but we are cleaning/sanitising more than normal plus door handles /counter ect.
Specimen / pleasure anglers you can pre pay for your ticket by calling the shop on 01805804360 then you can arrive /dip your equipment then go to the bank. If you need any tackle and don’t wish to visit the shop you can again call me and pay over the phone and Paul will deliver your items for you to your peg/swim.
Lodge guests can arrive as usual, again if you wish to not enter the shop on arrival your key will be in your lodge door for you once we have arranged your arrival time , you can then enjoy your holiday as usual , please bring enough food for your stay then you can still go for walks on site /fish as normal.
Our matches here start at Easter so I will keep you updated with any changes here.
Kyle Blackmore took advantage of the quiet shores on Christmas Day to tempt this smoothound. Not a large specimen but a thought provoking fish at this time of year. Catching fish outside of their recognised seasons has always happened but my gut feeling is that it is happening far more these days. There are many factors that impact upon fish and fish migration climate is just one of these and as anglers we play our game on natures chess board casting our lines into ever changing waters.
At Christmas and the New Year we often indulge in looking back and forth in time and social media has introduced an instant world that undoubtedly has its up and down sides. It is a fact that social media reflects good and bad in people so rather than condemn it as the new evil best to accept it as it is; taking the good with the bad as we always have in life.
On North Devon Angling News I try to report in a positive way to promote angling and the enjoyment of angling. I started the website back in 2016 when I saw that traditional papers were in decline ( The North Devon Journal stopped rewarding their angling columnist), I still write the column in the Journal because I want angling to have its place in North Devon News but feel that most people get their news on line these days. I hope readers enjoy what I try to do on this site and I welcome any features on local angling that you may be inspired to write. Please keep sending the news and images I do not reveal marks unless they are large easy access ones as I know this is a contentious area for sea anglers.
Fish conservation and habitat are all factors that impact upon anglers and I try to promote good practice within my pages on this site. In many instances anglers are at the forefront of conservation efforts espeicially on our rivers with grace concerns regarding salmon and sea trout stocks.
As I type this a latest report has just come in from Ian Laird ( Below) who landed this 9lb 8oz bull huss from a North Devon Rock Mark. One observation on recent months is that I am getting good numbers of qaulity pictures from anglers fishing the shore line during day light hours. I have fished plenty of after dark sessions to be plaged by small dogfish and strap eels.
If you would like to advertise/sponsor North Devon Angling News please get in touch. I try to give good value to all my sponsors. In the next few weeks my Intention is to add a few new features to the site giving more information on venues and whats on offer to anglers visiting North Devon.
The carp known as Blackspot has been tempted from Furzebray at weight of 45lb 12oz. It was caught during the spring at a weight of 39lb 12oz a massive weight increase of 6lb. At this rate this carp and others in the lake could be nudging 50lb next year!
When I started carp fishing back in the early eighties such a water would have been unheard of in North Devon. Waters that contained such huge carp were spoken of in hushed tones and I would suggest that Furzebray now holds fish to almost match those at Redmire Pool in its glory days.
We visited today’s North Devon Show enjoying a great day among the crowds. Driving over the River Taw on route to the show I of course noticed that the River was up and colored and out of order for fishing; should be perfect by the end of the week! Angling was unfortunately a little low profile at the show though we did find Fly-Fishing represented by the Salmon and Trout Conservation UK, formerly the Salmon and Trout Association. In a rural area like North Devon that has so much fishing on offer its seems strange that angling is not represented more prominently. My wife Pauline did however take advantage of some Fly Fishing Tuition from Fly Casting Instructor Alan Barrow. John Dawson was also at hand giving Instruction. If anyone is considering taking up Fly Fishing then tuition is well worth it as even a short session with an instructor can avoid developing bad habits that can last a lifetime.